Jun 15, 2018

The End

This is my last baby on her last night at our VBS. My kids will continue to volunteer at VBS over the next few years, but this is the last time any of them will attend as a kid. It's a bittersweet moment for the mommy. 


This was Abbie's first VBS, way back in the heyday of VBS for us. The kids' used to come home vibrating with excitement, talking over each other, sharing all the adventures they had had that evening. And then spend the next day eagerly awaiting time to go again!


Jun 8, 2018

Summer Goals

We have finally finished our school year. The summer has already been crazy busy with swimming, VBS, sleep overs, Nerf wars, bird hunting, fishing, reading and way too much time spent on screens. Oh, and eating. So. Much. Eating. Suddenly, out of nowhere my kids are growing and this apparently requires copious amounts of food. I buy so many groceries and we never seem to have anything to eat. My kids have always been small for their ages and slow growers, so this is uncharted territory for us. Where my kids used to be four little stairsteps, now the three oldest are in a straight line and soon the boys will be taller than Kaytie. And therefore, taller than ME!!!


But anyway. My point here is that summer is upon us. This year, I have three main goals for the summer. Well, fourif you count school planning. See, our upcoming school year is going to be packed to the gills. The kids will have plenty of margins, but I will not. I know that is not ideal, but sometimes we just have to deal with what IS not what Should Be. So, looking ahead at the tough season coming up, I have decided on two goals:

1. The kids are going to have a fun summer. We are not signed up for a lot of activities. They volunteer at a VBS every year, Abbie will attend her last VBS this summer, the boys have Scout camp, and we have a few meetings here and there for Book club and Chess club, neither of which are mandatory in the summer. I have three weeks of History Camps that I am teaching but again, that does not require much from the kids. Or me, really, because I love to teach. So the kids will fill their days with lots of swimming, reading, eating, pursuing various activities outdoors, eating popsicles, enjoying projects like art, making weapons, and fixing up bicycles, and spending free time with friends (they are teens and preteens after all). I will give them lots of "yes"s and lots of time to just be bored.


2. We will be putting habits and practices in place to get us through the fall. Around here, we tend to let a lot of things slip in the summer. But this summer we are going to take things up a notch instead. I need some routines to already be habits by the time mid-August rolls around. So we are going to work on those things. Nothing too strenuous, just daily keeping certain things under control.


3. And most importantly, I have the goal of filling up my tank with all the peace and rest I can get. I know that the next few months are vitally important for me to survive the busy school year looming ahead. I plan to do everything I can to ensure I go into the fray as strong as possible. This will require me to:

Say "no" to a lot of things I would rather say "yes" to.
Clean up my eating habits a good deal. No to sugar and junk! Yes to veggies and lots and lots of water!
Cement in place a good exercise routine. I have been hit and miss for a long time but now it is vital that I make it habitual to what needs to be done Every Day.
Read, read, read. For pleasure and also some inspirational homeschool mom books I have stockpiled on my shelves.
Enjoy my kids and all the downtime we have this summer.
Get all my lesson plans and master copies in place and ready to go so all I have to do all year is implement!
Go to bed early on a regular basis.
Look forward to the busy year. Because, yes, it will be crazy, but it is also going to be filled with all the things I love the most: kids, babies, and teaching!


 Have a great summer!

Jun 6, 2018

Homeschool Review Crew: Memoria Press Fables and Narrative

We were asked to review Classical Composition from Memoria Press. Teaching my non-writers to write has actually been a lot easier than finding a writing program for my prolific writer. Mostly, I just leave her alone but I like to try out various programs from time to time just to see if I can find one that ups her game. 

We were given two levels: Classical Composition I: Fable Set and Classical Composition II: Narrative Set.

Classical Composition uses, as the name would suggest, a method of teaching writing that classical teachers used. The same method that Cicero, Shakespeare and Milton learned from. Called the Progymnasmata (before exercises), this method teaches with imitation, discipline and a lot of scaffolding. 

Both sets consist of a Teacher Guide, a consumable Student Book and a set of Instructional DVDs. Since we were reviewing both sets, we were also sent a set of lesson plans to help us accelerate through the lessons and complete both books in 34 weeks. Now, we did not have a 34 week review period, but since we did want to complete as much material as possible for this review, we used this schedule. For my rising Sophomore, this did not feel too fast a pace (she actually did more than one day's worth at a time), however, for a younger or less prolific child, it might be best to just focus on one book a year. 

The DVD is just what it says it is: Instructional. Brett Vaden teaches the lessons for you. He goes over all the parts and pieces of the lesson and tells your child what to do. However, you are not limited to the DVD because your Teacher's Guide has all the same information in it. 
I watched the DVDs but my daughter did not. It was simpler for both of us if I just sat down with her with our books and went over the lesson together. So we spent most of our time with the Teacher's Guide and the Student Book.

Classical Composition I: Fable Set

It was actually super simple for us to use. Like most Memoria Press products, the Teacher's Guide contains a smaller version of the Student Book with the lesson in the margins. So I could simply open my book as she opened hers and know exactly what to teach.


Each lesson follows roughly the same pattern. There are twenty lessons in total. Each lesson is based around one of Aesop's fables. You start the lesson by reading the fable aloud. Mostly, I had her read this to me. Then we went over vocabulary words. She has an enormous vocabulary, so we did this portion by having her define each word in her own words because she already knows what "cease" and "expire" and "bough" mean, although, to be fair, there were some words that were new to her. Then we discussed what the words added to the story. Again, quick and easy for her. 

Then we got into the meat of the lesson. She learned about the Three Plot Components and over the course of the program she practiced finding them. She learned about Variations of sentences and practiced thinking of synonyms. She worked on making an outline for each fable, then narrated and rewrote each one in a couple of different variations, such as writing the story in reverse. She learned terms such as hydrographia, astrothesia, and dialogismus, (and many more!) how to find them and how to use them. And even though I had never heard of these things before in my life, between the Teacher's Guide and the DVD I was able to understand them well enough to teach them to her. So we both learned a lot!

As I said before, she is a natural writer, so these exercises were not difficult for her. There was a lot of reviewing of concepts with some new information sprinkled in. For example, she had outlined her own work before, but she had not outlined someone else's writing, nor had she used the standard format for outlining. Both of these things gave her a little extra knowledge and experience that she will use in college and beyond. 

Rewriting the story in a couple different variations was an amazing thing for her as well. She learned a lot about choosing the best way to express her thoughts and how to use the different figures of description to enhance her writing. 

Classical Composition II: Narrative Set

We did not get to the Narrative Stage book in the review period, but I did look it over so I could give you some idea about it. It follows the same basic pattern used in Fable, using short stories from ancient myths, classic literature and the Bible instead of Aesop. This book starts where Fable leaves off and teaches the remaining six of the Nine Plot Components. Once again, the student is using quality literature to learn what makes good writing and how to write it themselves. 

Narrative also has twenty lessons, but the writing selections are longer and the books are therefor thicker. It is a definite progression in skill level. I'm glad we were able to start with Fable and move on to Narrative.

Narrative has Teacher Tips in the lessons and give you advice on how to adapt to a classroom setting if needed. 

I found this program to be beneficial. Kaytie does not need a writing curriculum that teaches her how to write because she is a natural, but Classical Composition offers her a tool box from which to draw as well as plenty of exercises in playing with stories to see how something maybe "so-so" can be redone into something "amazing". I will definitely be pulling ideas out of these books for several years to come. 

New American Cursive & Traditional Logic {Memoria Press Reviews}
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Jun 5, 2018

Homeschool Review Crew: The Critical Thinking Co.™


One of the most important things I want to give my kids is the ability to think and reason. Also, I love puzzles. So I thought it would be both fun and educational to hand my kids the Critical Thinking Detective Book 1 from The Critical Thinking Co.™ which we were given for review.

The Critical Thinking Detective Book 1 is available in either digital or physical format. We received a physical book, so that is what I will be discussing in this post.


This book consists of puzzles or "cases" where a crime has been committed and the puzzle solver must use clues to figure out who is guilty and who is innocent. In each case there are four suspects, each with a short statement. The "case" consists of one or two long paragraphs that explain what happened and then a picture of each suspect with their name and statement.

On the facing page is a place for the solver to collect evidence. They are supposed to use complete sentences and sentence numbers as they write out the supporting evidence for their conclusion.


 For each case, the information given is accurate, including every suspect's statement. The solver is supposed to take all facts and evidence as true.

Some of the cases are more about realizing three of the suspects are innocent rather than proving one of them guilty, sort of a process of elimination.

All of the details, even the details in the pictures are important. We discovered that overlooking a tiny detail could cause you to accuse the wrong person or dog!

If you absolutely get stuck, if there is a difference of opinion between two solvers, or you just want to verify your ingeniously correct conclusions, there is an Answer Key in the back of the book. Don't look unless you want to know, however, because the criminals are each circled in bold red so you will discover all if you look!

Critical Thinking Detective Book 1 is geared for kids in grades 4 to 12. Since my kids all fall between these grades, I decided they could all participate in this review.


 We worked on it in several different ways. Some of them, we did individually. The copyright allows for copying the consumable pages just for your family, so I let each kid pick a case to work on by themselves. I copied the evidence collection sheet and set the kid to work.

Some of them we did as a group. I read the clues out loud and they worked together to figure out the guilty person.

Some of them we did competitively as a group. I read the clues and they raced to see who could come up with the correct suspect first. I think this way was the most fun!


Kaytie: I liked solving the puzzles. It was hard for me to figure out some of the cases. Some of them were tricky in their wording, for example, calling the dog beautiful so I picked the pretty breed. It was fun, though. I want to do the next book!

Nate: I thought they were fun. They were a little bit too easy for me. I didn't like having to write the sentences, I would rather just put sentence numbers or just write nothing at all. I can figure them out in my head. I highly recommend this book!


Daniel: I liked it because it is hard and it is fun to do. I recommend this book and want to do more!

Abbie: It's crazy fun! It makes my brain work hard. It's fun to get the right answer.


Logic is a lot of fun for our family. We have enjoyed many of The Critical Thinking Co.™  products in the past and Critical Thinking Detective Book 1  was definitely one of our favorites!

Critical Thinking Detective™ Book 1
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Critical Thinking, Understanding Math & Vocabulary {The Critical Thinking Co.™ Reviews}

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May 26, 2018

The Face of Summer 2018

Summer is coming slowly this year.

First, Abbie finished her work. Then Daniel finished his. Then Langston had his last day with us. The teenagers will finish their work this upcoming week. The next week they are all volunteering at a VBS. And then. THEN. I will feel as though summer has truly, completely begun. Meanwhile, this is the stuff that has been going on at our house...





P.S. We LOVE our new front porch!!!

May 18, 2018

The End of an Era

This girl has finished up school for the year. But not just that, she has finished up 5th grade. This means that the last child has completed elementary education. No more little kids around here! Next year we will have two middle schoolers and two high schoolers!


She is the first one to completely finish up this year but the other three are close behind!


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